September 18, 2008

New Guidance for Hepatitis B Infection

For the first time health professionals have guidance for effective management of chronically infected hepatitis B patients, U.S. health officials said.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta published new recommendations for healthcare providers that are designed to increase routine testing in the United States for chronic hepatitis B, a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer.

The CDC recommends testing all individuals born in Asia and Africa, as well as testing additional at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men and injection-drug users, the CDC?s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said.

"Chronic hepatitis B affects the lives of more than 1 million Americans, many of whom do not even know they are infected. These new recommendations are critical to identifying people who are living with the disease without the benefits of medical attention," Dr. John W. Ward, director of CDC?s division of viral hepatitis said in a statement.

"Testing is the first step to identify infected persons so that they can receive lifesaving care and treatment, which can break the cycle of transmission, slow disease progression, and prevent deaths from liver cancer."

In the United States, chronic hepatitis B is the underlying cause of an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 deaths each year from cirrhosis and liver cancer, the CDC said.